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Simple Sideline Vision Test Helps Identify Concussions
A simple vision test performed on the sidelines can help identify athletes who have suffered a concussion, according to a new study.
"Adding a vision-based test to evaluate athletes on the sidelines may allow us to better detect more athletes with concussion more quickly. This is particularly important since not all athletes reliably report their symptoms of concussion, including any vision problems," said senior author Laura Balcer, MD, New York University School of Medicine.
She presented the results of the study at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Philadelphia on April 30.
Sports medicine experts have been using standard tests based on balance and cognitive tasks to detect concussion on the sidelines. But these tests cannot pick up subtle signs of concussion. They started using vision tests because visual pathways are commonly affected in concussion, said Balcer.
DETECTION RATE 100%
The 1-minute vision test involves reading a series of numbers from index cards or an iPad screen. The results on the sideline can be compared to a baseline assessment. Any slowing in time taken to complete the test can be deemed a sign of concussion.
In the study, a total of 217 athletes aged 18 to 22 years playing on the University of Florida men's football, women's soccer, and women's lacrosse teams were tested at the start of the season and again if a concussion was suspected during play. Among 30 athletes with a first concussion, 79% had a worsen performance on the vision test compared with 52% using a standard concussion evaluation. Combining information from both tests, the researchers found that 89% of athletes with a concussion were correctly identified. When results from a third test evaluating errors in balance was added, 100% were identified. What's more, a worse score on the vision test correlated with more severe concussion symptoms.
The researchers don't think the vision test alone is enough to diagnose a concussion. They believe it's best used in combination with standard balance and cognition tests.
The bottom-line: All athletes in sports with high concussion rates should undergo pre-season and postseason vision testing, with additional evaluations in real-time to check for suspected concussions.